England complain about Russia chief

ZURICH - England's 2018 World Cup bid team lodged a formal complaint with FIFA on Tuesday against the chief of rivals Russia who later offered to apologise to them for the "misunderstanding" over critical comments attributed to him.

An England spokesman confirmed a complaint as the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, already tainted by allegations of vote-selling against two members of FIFA's executive committee, ran into more trouble.

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England said the complaint referred to comments made by Russian 2018 bid chief Alexei Sorokin, who reportedly spoke about London's high crime rate and levels of alcohol consumption in an interview with the local Sport-Express paper.

"It's no secret that London has the highest crime rate when compared with other European cities, and the highest level of alcohol consumption among young people," he was quoted as saying earlier this month.

FIFA, who did not immediately comment, forbid competing nations from making any comments about rival bidders.

Sorokin told Reuters on Tuesday that Russian officials could send a formal letter to FIFA and the English bid if necessary to explain themselves, although he said his words had been distorted.

"I can only apologise for this misunderstanding," he said. "We have the tapes of the interview and I know for a fact that I didn't break any rules.

"I did not try to hurt or discredit our bid rivals, there was no malice intended, I'm 100 percent sure of that."

"I am really sorry that because of several interpretations my interview was distorted," Sorokin said. "In the interview I used London's problems as an example. Such things are part of life in any big city.

"If you're talking specifically about my interview in the Sport-Express and what the British media made out of it, I must say my words have been distorted in three different stages, creating all the fuss," he said.

"First, people in the Sport-Express had interpreted some of my comments in a vague way, not exactly what I was trying to express.

LOST IN TRANSLATION

"Second, much of it was lost in translation from Russian into English and then, the rest was made up by the English journalists themselves," he added.

"Because of all these things the final content came out in a wrong way."

Last week, FIFA provisionally suspended two members of the executive committeee over allegations that they offered to sell their votes for the two World Cup hosts to undercover newspaper reporters.

FIFA are also investigating claims of collusion and vote-swapping between unnamed bidders for the 2018 and 2022 bids.

FIFA's ethics committee is due to produce its verdict in mid-November, only two weeks before the December 2 vote in Zurich for the hosts of the two tournaments.

"Russia will win the right to host the 2018 World Cup despite all these corruption scandals," Sergei Fursenko, president of the Russian FA, told local media on Tuesday.

"I think they (scandals) will not affect the Russian bid in any way, because we are just doing our work and not paying any attention to all this negative (publicity)."

The Japanese and Australian 2022 bids said they were ignoring the troubles at FIFA.

"We have to stay focused on our plan and strategy, which is to convince the world that Australia has the capacity to do justice to the world's biggest event," Ben Buckley, chief executive Australia 2022 bid, told the annual International Football Arena conference in Zurich.

"We don't change our strategy because of that."

Yuuichiro Nakajima, executive director of Japan's bid committee, said. "It's all conjecture, rumours, nothing which appears to have been proved. We are not in a position to comment on that."

Russia and England are bidding for the 2018 finals along with joint bids from Spain/Portugal and Belgium/Netherlands. The United States, Japan, South Korea, Qatar and Australia are the candidates for the 2022 tournament.